By Harold V. Kane
In 2002 the citizens of New Jersey were preparing to choose a US Senator for a six year term in the November election. The candidates were selected, via the primary system, to be Democrat incumbent Robert Torricelli and Republican Douglas Forrester. As the election wound toward November the Democrats found that they had several ethics issues with Mr. Torricelli and his reelection was far from assured. Mr. Torricelli, following President Truman’s dictum “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”, proceeded to, on September 30 withdraw his candidacy. The Republicans began their victory dance as Mr. Forrester was now unopposed and the Democrats would be prevented from replacing Mr. Torricelli because of the time constraints of the New Jersey Constitution.
The Democrats were not about to let the State Constitution stop them from replacing Mr. Torricelli. They petitioned the Judiciary for an exemption to the constraint and asked the Court to allow them to replace Mr. Torricelli with former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. The petition was heard by the State Supreme Court. What should have been a slam dunk for the Republicans became a slam dunk for the Democrats as the Deborah Poritz court ignored the State Constitution and voted 7-0 to allow Mr. Lautenberg on the ballot. Mr. Lautenberg defeated Mr. Forrester 54-44.
On August 5, 2020 the Republicans will again petition the Supreme Court to uphold the State Constitution. The issue this time is the $9.9B that Governor Phil Murphy and Democrat Legislature want to borrow for the 2020-2021 state budget. The State Constitution is clear in that borrowing must be presented to the voters for approval. No referendum has been scheduled. As in the Torricelli case the Supreme Court will hear the Republican petition in lieu of the lower courts.
The question is simple.
Will the Court uphold the Constitution and deny the borrowing or will it ignore the Constitution, as it did in the Torricelli case, and approve the borrowing. In the Torricelli case the Court said that by leaving Mr. Torricelli’s name on the ballot, it would give Mr. Forrester an “unfair” advantage.
What is “unfair” is burdening the citizens of New Jersey with billions in debt that they never approved. What the Court needs to do is to approve the Republican petition, which will deny the borrowing, and in a small way say “we’re sorry” for 2002.
Harold V. Kane of Monroe Township, NJ is a U.S. Navy Veteran and a retired telecom analyst.